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Interview with Nicholas Kemboi

Nicholas Kemboi

Nicholas Kemboi

Kemboi is already a marathon runner. Next stop after Golden Prague – the Moscow Championships

Donning a pair of small-framed glasses, a pullover and a blazer on top, you could be tricked into believing you’re talking to a bank clerk or embassy counsellor. However NICHOLAS KEMBOI is first and foremost an amazing marathon runner. A Kenyan representing Qatar. And he’ll surely never to forget his first marathon victory in Prague this past Sunday. “It was a truly amazing feeling” the 29-year old runner boasted, proving we are right.

How did you find the race?

I had my heart set on winning right from the start and felt charged with the will to pull it off. I wanted to stay fresh for as long as possible, allowing me to go all out for victory. At the tenth kilometre I was basically only observing my rivals. By the twentieth, however, I had started to pick up my pace a bit as the pacemaker was slow. This left four of us in the group which meant I started getting my hopes up that I could pick up a medal on the stage. But then at the thirtieth kilometre I tripped slightly on the cobblestones which caused me to sustain a muscle injury on my left foot.

But that didn’t hold you back?

I slowed down but fortunately was able to pick up my pace later on. After launching my attack on the Kenyans, I was left on my own. And I could see I was able to win.

Is it better for you to run for a long time in a group and leave the fight to the end or to break away from the group somewhere and run alone?

It’s better to run in a group of two or three and to help each other out. But from around the fortieth kilometre it’s a good idea to break away and run alone ahead. To know whether it’s realistic for you to win or not.

Did you have chance to soak up the race atmosphere in Prague or were you purely concentrating on your own performance?

No, no, no, I loved the amazing atmosphere. People were cheering me on all along the course and I could feel their support. It gives me strength and spurs me on to see people enjoying themselves.

You’ve already taken part in the world track championships, the world cross country as well as world half marathon championships. And now you’re a marathon runner. Do runners really see this course as the crème de la crème within the discipline?

Yes. Running a marathon is the most beautiful, yet toughest thing to do; you really need to have trained incredibly well to be able to put in a stellar performance. I spent years running on the track but that’s something really rather different. For the track, you need speed. While for the marathon you need speed as well as endurance.

You now have your first three marathons under your belt – the year before last you finished second in Valencia with a time of 2:08:01 and last year finished fifth in Istanbul in 2:20:40. Are you planning on taking part in the marathon at the World Championships in Moscow?

That’s my goal right now.

And your plan?

I’ll try it…to see if I can pick up a medal. I think I have it in me to do it.

Changing your citizenship to Qatari in 2005 partially helped make these dreams come true, it would have been difficult for you to qualify at all in the Kenyan team. Was it a tough decision to make?

Firstly I have to say that it was my decision and mine alone to make and that nobody put me under any pressure. At the same time, even after it happened, nobody asked any questions, wondered why I’d done it or doubted me. It wasn’t an easy choice but now I’m really happy I did it. It allows be to just focus on running.

But you carried on living in Kenya, in Eldoret, am I right?

Yes, I spend most of my time there. I pay a visit to Qatar ever now and then, but thanks to their federation, I’m given the perfect conditions for training. That’s important for my career.

Did you seek advice from other Kenyan runners who had changed their citizenship before you?

We spoke about it, and now meet up at races or during training sessions. They assured me that it would give me chance to broaden my horizons, gain an understanding of what life was like in another country. And they were right.

Has your family also accepted the idea?

I told them about it and allowed them some time to take it all in, to wait and see whether they would agree. They fully support me because they know that it’s good for my career and that it will give me the best chance to reach my potential.

You decided against changing your name just as Stephen Cherono did, who became Saif Saaeed Shaheen. Am I right in saying you also decided not to change your religious denomination either?

I already had quite a few achievements under my belt by that point and didn’t want people to have to start getting used to calling me by another name. And I remain a Christian, – there have been no issues with that, I’m not a Muslim. I could become one if I wanted to but they left it up to me.

You retain the fourth fastest time ever in the 10 000 metres which you picked up in Brussels in 2003 behind the legendary Gebrselassie, Bekele and Tergat. How fast can you run a marathon?

I’m confident I can do it in 2:06. I’m focusing more on the world championships this year, though I’d like to try to go for that time at the start of next year. Then later maybe for 2:05, that’d be great.

How long do you see yourself running like this for?

I’d like to take part in the Rio Olympics in 2016. After that I’ll see what limitations my body has in store for me.

So you’ll most certainly be returning to Prague or another RunCzech race?

I’d love to come back here again because I really like it. Plus I won here which means I’ll never forget that wonderful feeling associated with Prague. It’s a good course for fast times, I hope to be able to return. Either for the half marathon or to do another marathon.

Tomas Nohejl – Prague Marathon Media Service

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